Belgian City Defends Anti-Semitic Carnival Floats
April 10, 2020
The Belgian city of Aalst has defended anti-Semitic floats in their carnival as “our humor.”
The annual carnival taking place in February regularly features racist depictions of Orthodox Jews wearing outsized fur hats, long prosthetic noses and demeaning costumes.
Israel’s, Jewish activist groups and Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès are among the few of many who have condemned the costumes in the Aalst parade according to the BBC.
This February’s renewed anti-Semitic displays came a year after the Jewish Telegraphic Agency published an expose uncovering the regular anti-Semitic themes in last year’s parade in Aalst, located about 10 miles west of Brussels.
Participants who donned the anti-Semitic caricatures claimed the renewed displays of Orthodox Jews were created to promote the carnival and reject the widespread criticism the town received after the report from JTA. Last year, JTA’s coverage of the Aalst carnival uncovered floats with sinister looking Orthodox Jews holding bags of money and an in one case, a rat perched on one of the figure’s shoulders.
Multiple groups in the Aalst carnival this year wore costumes mocking different aspects of the Jewish culture and religion. One group wore an ant’s abdomen and legs attached to their backs and a sticker that read “obey” on their lapels.
Numerous critics of the carnival argueed that comparing Jews to ants was similar to Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda, which commonly portrayed Jews as rodents, vermin, and disease-spreaders.
Another group at the Aalst carnival attached a sign to their float which read: “regulations for the Jewish party committee,” and included the phrases: “Do not mock Jews” and “Certainly do not tell the truth about the Jew.” Many on-lookers even wore faux ultra-Orthodox Jewish costumes, including one person who also wore large troll feet.
The city drew so much criticism for their anit-Semitic caricatures of Jews last year that the parade was dropped from UNESCO’s cultural heritage list in December.
In response to the widespread criticism, the Aalst mayor’s spokesman Peter Van den Bossche claimed “It’s our parade, our humour, people can do whatever they want,” he said. “It’s a weekend of freedom of speech.”